Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Katherine Eggert

Second Advisor

David Glimp

Third Advisor

Richelle Munkhoff


This dissertation examines intersections between early modern ideas of secretaryship as described in texts such as Angel Day's The English Secretary and works by Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke; Andrew Marvell; and John Milton. It proposes to expand ideas of early modern authorship by showing, first, that forms of authorship could be drawn from patterns of information management, particularly circulation and transfer; and, second, that such forms of authorship were available to both men and women. Therefore, I argue, women and men had access to wider and less gender-restricted opportunities for authorship and narrative agency than previously thought. In her dedicatory poems to the Sidney Psalmes--"Even now that Care" and "To the Angell spirit of the most excellent Phillip Sidney"--and in the preface to The Countesse of Pembroke's Arcadia, Sidney Herbert uses her position as a transmitter to construct herself as an author in relation to her brother, Sir Philip Sidney; in doing so, she gains her authority from her intermediary status. Marvell, who sought the position of secretary during the Interregnum, explores and modifies the secretarial model in his Cromwell poems--"An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland," "The First Anniversary of the Government under O. C.," and "A Poem upon the Death of O. C."--to examine his representational relationship with Oliver Cromwell. Milton, who also worked as a secretary, links Eve in Paradise Lost to narrative authority after she enacts the secretary's ability to disrupt given structures of information circulation. In shifting the secretary/master relationship from a predominately "one-self" model to a model of independent, if bureaucratic, agency, Marvell and Milton show how the secretarial model could be modified in response to a changing political landscape and developing views regarding the relationship of the individual to existing power structures. This adaptability of a sixteenth-century secretarial model contributed to its continued use in the seventeenth century; this adaptability also contributed to the development of a narrative voice in the early novel. We therefore can connect novelistic narrative voice--both masculine and feminine--with late sixteenth-century information technology.